The Boer War 1899–1902: scorched earth, concentration camps and ‘methods of barbarism’


This event, hosted by UK think tank RUSI, explores this period of the conflict, the British response to guerrilla warfare and the concentration camp system.

The Boer War was a bloody and prolonged conflict. Although the British Army had occupied Transvaal and the Orange Free State by August 1900, Boer forces refused to surrender. Frustrated by their inability to defeat the Boer guerrillas, the British authorities introduced ruthless methods to isolate them from civilian support. This included the widespread destruction of Boer farms, summary execution of prisoners and rebels and, most notoriously, the construction of concentration camps intended to separate Boer civilians from guerrilla fighters. These policies aroused global controversy and were described by opposition and Liberal Party leader Henry Campbell-Bannerman as ‘methods of barbarism’.

The lecture explores this notorious period of the conflict, the British response to guerrilla warfare, and the nature of the concentration camp system.

Speaker: Dr Spencer Jones is Senior Lecturer in Armed Forces and War Studies at the University of Wolverhampton and serves as the Regimental Historian for the Royal Regiment of Artillery. His key works include From Boer War to World War: Tactical Reform of the British Army 1902–1914 and Stemming the Tide: Officers and Leadership in the British Expeditionary Force 1914, which was runner-up for the Templer Medal in 2014. He has published several critically acclaimed books on the British Army in the First World War, including Courage Without Glory: The British Army on the Western Front 1915 and At All Costs: The British Army on the Western Front 1916.

Chair: Dr Sarah Ashbridge is a Research Fellow in Military Science at RUSI. She is a military historian and a forensic archaeologist, having recently conducted studies into the operational response to fallen soldiers, the 1906 Geneva Convention and the archaeological legacy of war in Western Europe.

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